Students explore careers, culture and the outdoors

Campus organizations brought students to New York City, Hawai’i and Florida during the week of Feb. 20


Students get ready to snorkel in a freshwater spring. Photo by James Dick

Catherine McKean, Arts & Life Editor

As many students headed home or elsewhere for Washington Break, affectionately known as “Feb Break,” several groups of students left campus for immersive learning experiences planned by organizations on campus.

Networking in the City

The Office of Career and Professional Development (CPD) brought back its winter career trips to New York City for the first time since February 2020.
These four-day trips have offered students the opportunity to learn about career paths, job and internship positions and network with companies through alumni connections for years, but have been on a hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This year, the CPD office added two new industries to the career trips’ roster; a trip centered around technology and a writing trip that covered journalistic and creative writing and publishing careers. Each trip visited around 15 companies and were able to ask questions to alumni working at those companies.
CPD director Molly Steele said that the office’s goals are to “diversify the opportunities available to students” based on what students ask for. She said interest in trips centered around skills, like writing, rather than specific industries has grown in recent years.
The other two trips, the finance trip and advertising, marketing and communications (AdMarCom) trip have been included in the office’s February break programming every year because interest in them remains consistently high. Because of this, they have been able to establish strong connections with companies and alumni based in NYC.
Steele, who led the writing trip, said that planning the two new trips required the office to tap into a “whole new group of alumni,” as it is the alumni’s involvement that makes these trips possible.
“A strong trip, in my eyes, is one where students can explore different kinds of companies, agencies, brands in an industry and see the variety of roles available to them as well as the work environment,” she said. “When we go in for a visit, the alumni will lead the conversation and tell their own story. The alumni are valuable because they make the trips so much more approachable and can help as a resource in future job searches.”
Students were able to make connections at household brand names in each industry they were interested in. For example, the finance trip visited companies like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, the AdMarCom trip visited companies like Meta, the tech trip visited companies like Spotify and Uber and the writing trip visited Wall Street Journal and Penguin Random House.
All students are encouraged to sign up for a trip to refine and expand on their career interests, no matter what their majors are, because the trips allow future-focused students to explore industries and see whether they would be a good fit in each company.

A group of people in business casual outfits pose in front of a wall sign that says Spotify, in a building with a concrete floor.
Students on the tech trip visit Spotify in New York City. Photo courtesy of the CPD Instagram account

“The NYC career trip was an amazing experience that allowed me to really get a sense of what I was interested in, and helped me learn more about the firms, the people and more about myself and what I am passionate about,” said Chaeyon Jang, ’25, who went on the finance trip.
Steele also mentioned that students were given free time to explore “city living” and imagine what their lives might be like post-graduation.
While in New York City, many students used free time to take advantage of the city’s many museums, Broadway shows, shops and international and fusion cuisine.
“The most memorable part was being able to get closer to the other students also interested in finance,” said Jang. “And all the good food we ate.”

Finding Aloha

The University Singers, directed by Dr. Shane Lynch, spent their Washington Break in Honolulu for part of their national tour, another event that had been in planning for four years due to delays by COVID-19.
While on the island of Oahu, student singers spent a week performing and learning about the culture, history and music of Pacific Islander Americans.
On their first day, the singers participated in a workshop with “Aunty” Nola Nāhulu, a renowned native Hawaiian conductor and director of choral music, who helped the group choose representative pieces for the Hawaiian portion of their set. These included a traditional “oli” of greeting and two works by Queen Lili’uokalani, the last sovereign monarch of Hawai’i.
“When we were putting this trip together, it became clear very quickly that Hawaiian music is deeply spiritually connected and under-explored in the mainstream United States,” said Lynch at the Singers Tour Home concert on Feb. 28.
It was important to the group, he said, that students were able to bring elements of Hawaiian culture, attire and music back and perform it in a way that was “respectful and appropriate without being appropriative.”
Nāhulu’s expertise helped the group navigate historical tensions related to the queen’s imprisonment and understand the cultural and geological significance of the themes included in the Hawaiian pieces.
A linguist from the University of Hawai’i was also brought in to assist in diction and lead the choir in a hula workshop where they could dance alongside Nāhulu’s Hawaiian Youth Opera Chorus.
The linguist also stressed the importance of finding and sharing aloha, which means many things, but most importantly, love for each other and thankfulness for the experiences that people may share with each other.
Lizzy Nguyen, ’25, a member of the University Singers, found her time in Hawai’i enlightening and educational, and said that the trip gave her the opportunity to experience Pacific Islander culture in a way she had never been able to do before.
“Learning the cultural and historical context of the music that we perform, especially Queen Lili’uokalani’s pieces, completely changed the way I was approaching them,” she said. “The intention is different, and when we go to share these songs with others, I hope that they’re able to understand that, too.”

Swimming with Manatees

On Feb. 18, members of the Outing Club began the drive to Northern Florida’s freshwater springs with Director of Outdoor Education James Dick for an adventurous week of camping and swimming.
This was the second year in a row that the Outing Club had led a scuba and snorkel camping trip to Florida, a slight difference from the Florida Everglades sea kayaking trip that past students enjoyed from 2000 until 2020. Although the sea kayaking trip is set to return for Washington Break in 2024, COVID-19 and complications from hurricanes have prevented the club from resuming its usual Florida trip.
Despite this, students enjoyed the modified trip, especially their visits to Florida’s state parks, including what Dick describes as the “out of this world incredible” Rainbow Springs State Park.
Franzi Schima, ’23, joined the trip after seeing it advertised on the Outing Club website.
“We were snorkeling every day, and visiting all of these different camp sites,” said Schima. “We spent a lot of time swimming and walking through the parks. The weather was amazing, and got warmer and warmer every day that we were there.”
As a German exchange student, the Outing Club trip was the first time Schima was able to visit Florida.
“Florida’s most known for its more touristy sites, so it was really nice to get to know the other parts of it as well,” she said. “I was surprised by how warm and just how beautiful it was.”
This year’s trip was the first time Dick was visiting the areas as well, and he mentioned that “sharing the joy of discovery” is what drives his passion for leading students in outdoor exploration.
“There are times where you’ll see something incredible, like the sun setting over a stream or a manatee or dolphin swimming by, and then you look up and get to watch someone else watch that same thing, and that’s amazing to see, too,” he said.
Dick says that it is the diversity of participants that makes for the best group experiences because they make each trip unique.
“When we’re all in the outdoors for long enough, we eliminate all these social barriers and can reveal our most genuine, authentic selves,” said Dick.
Schima says that she finds herself much closer to the trip’s other participants after sharing stories, experiences and inside jokes with them for a week, a sentiment that Dick expressed, too.
“I want everyone to take one small risk, just a chance, on having an outdoor experience while in college,” he said. “You can do this, it’s easy and it’s worth it.”